- Airbus kicked off a global competition for quantum computing challenges in the aerospace industry, inviting researchers, companies, advanced students and other professionals to submit project proposals through October.
- The company will accept submissions from quantum computing experts and enthusiasts for five flight challenges affecting aircraft life-cycles: aircraft climb, wingbox design, aircraft loading, computational fluid dynamics and quantum neural networks for partial differential equations.
- The European aerospace company is already using quantum computing capabilities for route optimization and satellite imagery, but looking to extend quantum technology to other domains that affect the company's business, from design and operations to revenue.
Airbus was an early, big investor in QC Ware, a software company linking enterprises to quantum computing; a 2016 investment in the startup was the company's first major step into quantum computing.
The company has been investing in high performance computing in both near-term IT solutions as well as long-term R&D activities. Airbus' first quantum computing project used a D-Wave 2000Q machine, according to a D-Wave report from April. The project demonstrated the potential of quantum annealing and fault tree analyses for managing system failures.
A true, scalable, universal quantum computer is many years — and potentially decades — away. But organizations are finding applications for early quantum capabilities in the form of specialized computers that use quantum annealing for domain-specific optimization problems.
Specialized computers allow researchers to work around the error correction demands of a universal quantum computer, allowing for earlier use cases.
Volkswagen, for example, used a D-Wave system to optimize traffic in Beijing for airport transportation, crunching computation time from more than half an hour to seconds. And Japan-based Recruit Communications used quantum annealing to optimize ad placements on mobile platforms for marketing.
Many questions persist on whether other high performance computing options are more effective for businesses in solving complex optimization problems. But Airbus is making a strategic play, directing quantum investment and research into its domain and setting the groundwork for larger quantum computing applications as the technology and hardware catch up.